How to Retain Employees in Your Small Business

Keeping employees happy and satisfied with their jobs is important for small businesses, but you might not have the budget to pay the same salary big companies can pay. Here are seven things you can do to prevent them from jumping ship when another job offer comes along.

You know the problem. As a small business you can’t pay your employees those publically-traded, Fortune 500, multinational corporation salaries, but to continue to grow you know that you have to hire and retain the best of the best. Just like a sports team, your success rides on the quality of your team. You face the problem of having to put together the best team at salaries often much lower than they could make working for a larger company.

So how do you make it happen? How do you keep employees from taking the next best job offer?

Offer Employees Flex Time

There’s a trend happening in corporate America that works to your advantage. Millennials don’t want to make their life about work. They want the opportunity to live a more balanced life. In one study, 70% said that giving back was very important to them, but unlike baby boomers who worked the 9-5 to grind every day, millennials, who are masters of technology, want the option to work at home at a time more convenient to them.

Top talent is going to work hard—that’s why they’re top talent, so why not offer the ability to have a flexible schedule and the ability to telecommute? Some jobs lend themselves to such a schedule better than others but what’s the worst that can happen? You try it, it doesn’t work out, and you tell them they have to come back to the office? You, as a small business, can implement strategies like this much faster than the bigger corporations.

Offer Perks That Make Employees’ Lives Easier

Baby Boomers will remember the days when high-level execs charged their “secretary” with picking up their dry cleaning, getting their lunch, and finding an anniversary card for their spouse.

But in the case of Silicon Valley companies like Google, addressing these basic issues is a big part of their retention program for employees at every level. Having an area stocked with food, sending a Wifi-equipped bus to pick them up for work, and offering daycare for new parents are just a few of the perks of working at Google.

Of course, you’re not Google, but what basic problems can you solve for your employees? Most of these perks don’t cost a lot of money but they’re huge to your employees.

Remember The 80/20 Rule

Something else that happens at Google is that employees devote 80% of their time to the job they were hired to do but can spend 20% working on passion projects they believe will help the company.

Millennials, unlike Baby Boomers, have a passion for creativity. They don’t want to be told to simply do their job and let higher-ups cast the vision and work on the high-brain-power tasks. How can you better develop leaders in your company? People who feel like stakeholders are likely to stay longer.

Provide Constant Feedback

Your employees don’t like that annual review any more than you like doing it. They want instant feedback. They want you to celebrate them when they really nail something. When they don’t measure up, they want to know why and how to do better without being yelled at or diminished. 

If your business is small, take groups of employees out to lunch regularly. Ask them how they feel about their job and if there’s anything you can do better to support them.

Promote Employees from Within

Sometimes that’s not possible but when you have an outstanding employee who is clearly fit for a higher level job, promote them. People are always looking for more and they know that as they gain knowledge and experience, they’re worth more to companies. Show your employees a clear path to advancement and promote from within whenever possible.

Offer Training That Employees Are Interested In

Not by bringing in the high-priced corporate cheerleaders. Train them in a way that they enjoy. Is there a new piece of software they would like to learn? Is there a new technique that’s all the craze that they’re interested in? Ask them. What are they interested in that could bring value to them and also your business? It could be part of that 20% mentioned above.

Don’t Forget Traditional Perks

Let’s not forget about the traditional perks that every employee is looking for. Don’t expect employees to work for you primarily because they love your company. They’re working to support their family, so salary, insurance, and retirement are not only important, they’re critical to their well-being.

Could you offer a profit sharing plan? A better insurance package? How about highly objective goals tied to their salary? If they generate X amount of sales they’re guaranteed a 4% raise?

If you align your goals with theirs, these basic benefits that every employee is looking for could entice them to work harder and it keeps you from having to hand out raises to everybody.

And of course, coach them throughout the year on how to reach those goals. It’s not management vs. employee. Work alongside them to help them reach those goals. Communicate that you want to give out the largest rewards at the end of the year.

10 Easy Tips to Remember

1. Pay employees fairly and well, then get them to forget about money.

2. Treat each and every employee with respect. Show them that you care about them as persons, not just as workers.

3. Praise accomplishments…and attempts.

4. Clearly communicate goals, responsibilities and expectations. NEVER criticize in public – redirect in private.

5. Recognize performance appropriately and consistently.

6. Involve employees in plans and decisions, especially those that affect them. Solicit their ideas and opinions. Encourage initiative.

7. Create opportunities for employees to learn & grow. Link the goals of the organization with the goals of each individual in it.

8. Actively listen to employees concerns – both work-related and personal.

9. Share information – promptly, openly and clearly. Tell the truth … with compassion.

10. Celebrate successes and milestones reached – organizational and personal. Create an organizational culture that is open, trusting and fun.

Bottom Line

If you’re simply comparing salaries, you probably aren’t going to compete with the large, multinational companies but for millennials, there’s more to working than just the salary. Set up a positive working environment that fosters growth and allows them to pursue their dreams in the process, you’re more likely to retain that top talent. If we sum it up into one phrase, just be generous.

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